Soaking up sun and scenery in coastal OC

BY Christina Orlovsky Page

It’s the type of scene that’s made for television: attractive people, luxury cars, lavish homes and breathtaking coastal scenery. It’s coastal Orange County, where Teslas and Lamborghinis abound; where ladies lunch; and where outdoor activities beg to be undertaken, simply because it’s too beautiful outdoors to stay inside. Spend a day in Newport Beach—the quintessential Southern California beach town famous for its boat-filled harbor, watersports, waves and wealth—and it’s easy to see why the area has been a focal point of television shows depicting West Coast paradise. 

Located 90 miles north of San Diego, the coastal city of roughly 87,000 residents is packed with attractions that can easily fill a day or weekend getaway. Ease the stress of the ever-present I-5 traffic by taking the coastal route starting in Dana Point. Your trip along the Pacific Coast Highway will take you through idyllic Laguna Beach, easily worth a stop on its own. With 10 distinct neighborhoods that cater to residents and tourists alike, there’s always someplace to eat, shop, bike, surf, skate or simply sit and take in the scenery.

Start your day with a delicious farm-to-table brunch at Provenance, a welcoming wine country-inspired restaurant surprisingly positioned in an unassuming strip mall. Under the helm of Owner/Executive Chef Cathy Pavlos, Provenance brings Napa Valley to the OC with its inventive menu and on-site organic patio garden, where Chef Cathy tends to tomatoes and picks herbs for her seasonal menu of what she calls “New California cuisine.” She notes that this menu combines French and Italian with Pan-Asian, Pan-Latin and Pan-Middle Eastern cuisine—all representative of the wonderful flavors each culture has brought with it to California.

Energized from brunch, it’s easy to take in some type of outdoor activity—especially this close to the coast. Head southwest a few miles to Newport Harbor, Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula where opportunities to exercise—or simply stroll and shop—are everywhere. Get a lay of the land on two wheels with an exhilarating electric bike tour—on your own or with a guide—with Pedego, located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar. Battery-powered up to speeds of 20 mph, the rented bikes are a fun and eye-catching way to explore quaint Balboa Island with its kitschy stores, galleries, ice cream shops and tourist stops; the Balboa Fun Zone amusement park on Newport Pier; the seaside boardwalk on Balboa Peninsula (reached by a quick, $1.25 car-, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly ferry ride across the harbor); and the Wedge, a stretch of beach famous for its high surf.     

After pedaling or electric powering your way around town, you’ll have earned drinks and dinner at one of Newport Beach’s many upscale eateries. See and be seen at Lido Marina Village, where you can dine along the harbor at famed sushi spot Nobu or newly opened Venice Beach-original Zinque, a French-inspired foodie spot perfect for bidding adieu to your beautiful day in Newport Beach.

Five More Ways to Spend a Few Hours

  1. Shop ‘til you drop at Fashion Island, an expansive open-air shopping, dining and cultural complex filled with upscale shops, more than 30 restaurants, a farmers market and much more! 
  2. Rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak from any number of vendors on Balboa Island and paddle the harbor.
  3. Let someone else navigate your water activity with a harbor boat tour with Duffy Electric Boat Company, a whale watching excursion off Newport Landing or a sunset dinner cruise.
  4. Groove to live music at the Hyatt Regency Summer Concert Series or brush up on the works of the bard in the summer Shakespeare by the Sea festival.
  5. Peruse the exhibits at the Orange County Museum of Art or the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.